Austria confirms selection of C-390 transporter as C-130 replacement

Austrian national news outlet Kronen Zeitung appeared to break the news, which was followed 24 hours later by official confirmation.

Richard Thomas September 20 2023

Austria will become the latest operator of the C-390 tactical transporter, following confirmation by the country’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) that it had selected the Embraer aircraft to replace the in-service C-130 fleet.

Manufacturer of the C-390, Brazilian OEM Embraer, in a short release on 20 September stated that it would support the Austrian Ministry of Defense and Air Force “in order to meet the demanding requirements of their acquisition process”, with Austria now joining Brazil, Portugal, Hungary and the Netherlands as current or future operators of the type.

The Austrian Air Force upgraded its C-130K tactical transporter in 2013 with the help of UK aerospace and defence company Marshall, having acquired three airframes from the UK Royal Air Force in 2002.

It had been reported by Kronen Zeitung on 19 September that four C-390 aircraft will be acquired to replace the three C-130Ks. The outlet’s reporting suggested that the airframes could be obtained from the Netherlands, which is a future operator of the platform.

A subsequent social media statement and press conference from the Austrian Ministry of Defence on 20 September confirmed that the C-390 would succeed the C-130, with the aircraft be to “procured from Embraer in cooperation with the Dutch armed forces” at a cost of around €130m – 150m ($130m-$160m) per aircraft.

A new tactical transporter on the block?

The C-390 Millenium has been marketed by Embraer far and wide, touting the platform’s capabilities to potential customers in the Middle East and Europe, with the aircraft also operated by Brazilian forces.

In June this year Embraer delivered the sixth C-390 aircraft to the Brazilian Air Force (FAB), and the first airframe to have arrived in Full Operational Capability (FOC) configuration, with the five preceding units scheduled to be upgraded at a later date.

According to a 16 June release by Embraer, the FOC certificate confirms that the C-390 programme meets all the requirements set out by the FAB, enabling the sixth aircraft to carry out all roles the type was originally designed to perform.

Since entering service with the FAB in 2019, the service’s fleet of C-390 aircraft, configured in the aerial refuelling version (designated KC-390) have accumulated nearly 9,000 flight hours.

In 2022 Embraer and UK defence prime BAE Systems signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly promote the C-390 transport aircraft into Middle East countries, in particular Saudi Arabia, as part of a renewed export drive.

Saudi Arabia currently operates a mixed fleet of more than 30 C-130H/J tactical transporters, with the H variant gradually being phased out and replaced by the more modern J model. Any offering of the C-390 to Riyadh would augment its tactical transport fleet, which is due an expansion in line with its increased combat air numbers.

BAE Systems has a long relationship in the Gulf region in particular, and has sold defence aerospace solutions into Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and Oman in recent years. Embraer had an earlier agreement with Boeing to aid the C-390’s penetration in markets such as the Middle East, which had lapsed at the time of the BAE Systems tie-up.

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